By Elmer Towns
The pastor is not the only one who must be willing to pay the price of church growth. The growing church must have people who want the church to grow and are willing to pay the price. That price will involve some basic changes in their attitudes toward church life. First, they must be willing to give up that close relationship to the pastor they have in a smaller church. But because a growing church will hire staff pastors to pastor the church, they do not have to give up a close relationship to a pastor. Also, laymen will lead classes, care groups, and other organizations where they give “pastoral care” to other laymen in the body. Even if the size of the church makes it impossible to relate socially with the senior pastor, there are others who are able to meet the needs of church members. And because these work in small groups or in specialized areas of ministry, they are probably more effective working together to meet the needs of the congregation.
Also, there are other prices to be paid by the church members. They must be willing to give up that close relationship to everyone as the church grows larger. In a large church, you can’t be a close friend to everyone. Still, you will be a close friend to some. Research in this area suggests a church member knows an average of 59.7 fellow members by name regardless of the size of his church. That means in a church of 87 or 1,000, the average person is on a personal name basis with approximately 60 people. Those who selfishly try to limit a church to their circle of friends have misunderstood the meaning of a church. A church is not primarily for koinonia fellowship, though relationships grow out of its purpose. The Great Commission is the marching orders of the church. As the church grows, everyone will have a small Sunday School class, Bible study cell, or primary group where they will know others and be known in return. A growing church will have a multitude of these smaller fellowship groups. No one should prohibit church growth by limiting his church to those he is able to call by name.
Another price the members must pay if they want their church to grow is financial giving. Growing churches are made up of giving members, but not all churches with giving members are growing.
The members must pay the price in redirected fellowship patterns. The growing church is not a crowd, but an army. It is comparatively easy to get a crowd of people to come to hear an entertaining quartet sing or for a sacred music concert. But a concert on Sunday morning is not a church, even if it is followed by a Gospel message. A church involves people teaching, giving, and serving on committees where decisions are made about the church. The church is not a church when it is just people who come to hear a sermon. A church is the body of gifted believers edifying itself (Eph. 4:11-16). As the church grows larger, everyone must redirect his fellowship relationships.
The church must open leadership circles. This is a price of growth. I get excited about the numbers in large churches, but numbers alone never are the cause. I get excited about the growing number of laymen who are involved in ministry. The lay ministry is a sleeping bear that has awakened in American churches and will have a larger influence in the future.
The Goal Is the Great Commission
The growing church must agree on its corporate goal which is found in the Great Commission. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19-20, KJV, italics added).
Notice the three emphasized words which are key to the strategy of the Great Commission, a strategy which results in numerical church growth. The first word, teach, is translated from the Greek word matheteuo which literally means “make disciples.” Disciple making is more than evangelism at the county fair, which means to get people to make a decision for Christ. We must get people to make decisions to become disciples of Jesus Christ, but we must do more than involve them in a decision. A disciple is a follower: the new convert follows Christ in confession, baptism, godliness, tithing, and service. The lost person must make a decision to follow Christ, then follow Christ to the church for public confession in baptism, follow Christ in service, and follow Christ in holiness.
The second key strategy word is baptizing. The old word for baptizing was “churching.” A convert should be committed to Christ and His church. Bonding is a key thought in church growth. Bonding has the result of “super glue” as opposed to the frailty of paste or mucilage. We need to bond new believers to our churches so that those we reach with the Gospel become assimilated into a growing church.
The third word in our strategy is also translated teaching, but is a different Greek word than the previous one for teaching. The verb here is didaskontes, meaning teaching in the sense of giving instruction. Those who become disciples of Christ must become a part of His church and be taught His commands if they are to grow spiritually and become a part of a growing church. And teaching is where Sunday School becomes an indispensable foundation of church growth.
The above article, “We Must Pay the Price for a Growing Sunday School” was written by Elmer Towns. The article was excerpted from 154 Steps to Revitalize your Sunday School and Keep Your Church Growing by Elmer Towns. 1988
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”